Chicken and Egg Issue 15 - page 8-9

Chicken & Egg. Welfare and Food Together.
Chicken & Egg. Welfare and Food Together.
All cooped up
and nowhere to go!
At the time of writing this article some of us have been able to let
our birds free range again, but others are still cooped up (even
on lovely sunny days like today), and we thought it would be
interesting to give you some background on how backyard hen
keepers and the egg industry coped with the DEFRA Prevention
Zone restrictions put in place on 6th December.
A simple name with huge implications.
The Avian Influenza (AI) strain H5 N8 was
first detected in Asia in 2014. Like many
AI strains, this virus can exist in wild bird
populations without ill effect before going
on to infect domestic and commercial
poultry with devastating consequences.
Between October 2016 and January 2017
there were 761 outbreaks across Europe,
51% in poultry and the remainder in wild
birds. H5 N8 has also been found in Asia,
Africa and the Middle East.
at Home
Suddenly our chooks were unable to enjoy
the everyday activities they took for granted
and being cooped up wasn’t their idea of
a free range retirement. We gave you lots
of information about how you could keep
your hens entertained during the long
incarceration, such as:
• Hanging up cabbages, sweet potatoes
and other veg with a piece of string
through the middle
• Hanging up CDs – hens love shiny
things (as budgies like mirrors)
• Emptying small plastic bottles filled with
corn, then puncturing a few holes so the
corn could fall out as the hens moved it
• Hanging up treat dispensers and varying
the treats daily (we have great treats in our
online shop!)
• Providing a dust bath – a mix of dry soil
with ash in a plastic box, together with a
handful of diatomaceous earth makes a
lovely bath that helps to control parasites
at the same time
Commercial Flocks
We all experienced the changes to routine,
the extra bedding needed, the additional
bio security and boredom busters required,
but how about managing a flock of 4,000
or more during restrictions?
Farmers were advised to maintain good
ventilation and control temperature so their
hens had fresh air without creating drafts
or chilling them. Checking ammonia levels
became more important as droppings all
landed inside the house.
Farmers were advised to watch for signs
of stress such as alarm calling, smothering
and feather pecking.
Keeping regular hours of light and dark,
providing clean, friable litter (material the
hens can scratch about and dust bathe in),
and adding fibre into feed to replace the loss
of plant material (such as grass) all helped to
minimise welfare issues, and maintain egg
Lowered lighting, providing enrichment
such as objects to peck including grit and
even radio all helped to keep hens happy.
Despite the additional challenges H5 N8
presented to all of us, as with all things,
prevention was better than cure and the
short term impact of confinement preferable
to the risk of AI getting a grip in the UK.
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